8 Things That Make a Great Mom
I used to joke that I was the World’s “Okay-est” Mom.
Sometimes I would drive my four girls to school in my jammies. The house was tidy to be sure but rarely, if ever, “clean clean.” During Spirit Week at school, my girls were lucky if they participated in three out of five days. I didn’t do fundraisers, order school pictures, or even have “friend” birthday parties, aside from inviting a kiddo’s close friend or two for dinner and cake with the family. I was always busy and always working, but I did not present a picture of mom perfection.
Some days I felt like a real loser. After all, I didn’t even work outside of the home. Why didn’t my house look like a palace? Why weren’t my kids’ sneakers always bright white? I was “just a mom” — a self-identified ‘meh’ one at that.
These are real pics from my IG. That’s right. Here are my kids straight up playing in the mud in my unlandscaped front yard.
And, yet, I would regularly receive comments from friends, my kids’ teachers, and even strangers on my YouTube channel about what an “amazing” mom I was.
“How do you do it???” they’d ask me.
- They’d remark how they had never heard me scream at my kids once and how polite, intelligent, and kind my daughters were.
- They asked how I had managed to raise them to eschew social media and be more interested in playing guitar or drawing comics than posting duck face selfies to Snapchat.
- They’d observe that my kiddos were happy and well-adjusted and that hugs and “I love you”s were abundant between us.
- They were impressed by how four out of four of my girls were on Honor Roll every quarter.
- They were incredulous at how my girls wouldn’t dream of talking back to me — they respected me too much.
Two of the four have significant special needs, and the difference between where they started and where they are now is night and day. People have watched them bloom and have wanted to know what I did, as a mom, for my kids to turn out so well (so far, at least).
This is not me putting myself on a pedestal or patting myself on the back. The reality is that I felt like less when I didn’t make handmade invitations and personalized aprons for a neighborhood Christmas Cookie party or drive myself insane researching Elf on the Shelf configurations that would impress all of my friends on IG.
(For the record, I don’t have an Elf on the Shelf and I told my kids it’s fake bullshit, but that’s a whole other article.)
I didn’t see my value as a mom until I let go of judging myself via the social media/mommy blog/superficial nonsense. I finally allowed myself to actually hear what the people around me were saying and not wallow in the comfort of false modesty. I learned to be proud of not just the kids I was raising, but of myself for having raised them. That’s when I realized that I wasn’t just “okay.” I was great. Top of the class. An amaze-balls mama. And I didn’t need to cultivate an impression of effortless perfection, because while that makes for a pretty picture, it doesn’t turn out good kids.
Prior to that revelation, I, like many moms, had made a conscious choice to value myself least and count myself last. We do without. We forget who we are and give everyone credit except for ourselves. I couldn’t even say, “Thanks!” when someone said, “Your kids are great!” Instead I’d say, “It’s all them. I didn’t do anything.”
What a load of horse shit.
And then, on top of that, we compare ourselves to the trendy, professionally coiffed mamas on social media and hold ourselves to a standard of photographic perfection. We must — must — let that shit go. Do it for your kids. They don’t need a perfect looking mom.
They need you.
Being a great mom doesn’t mean having Pinterest-worthy birthday parties or looking flawless 24/7. Those things are bullshit status plays that have everything to do with ego and little to do with the kids.
It’s not that making a birthday cake that is a life-size replica of Moana isn’t an accomplishment — it makes you a great baker, and probably the envy of your friends— but it doesn’t make you a great mom if you’re too busy focusing on the perfect IG angle instead of letting your kiddo bake the cake with you (and probably messing it up in the process).
Here’s a list of important things I’ve learned that being a great mom means:
- It means taking care of yourself. Ladies, running yourself ragged does no one any favors. If you need a nap, don’t be afraid to ask someone to watch the kids so you can take one. If you are feeling out of shape, find a way to get to the gym or run laps around your neighborhood during the kids’ nap time. Strong, healthy woman = strong, healthy mama. We do no one any favors when we are sick and grumpy and exhausted.
- It means modeling the kind of behavior that you want your children to emulate, even when they’re not around. Having positive role models is crucial to children’s development. Little eyes are watching all the time. They have no experience in the world so they look to you to model how they should move through it. You can’t just fake it when they are around, either. You have to be the person you want them to see. Be friendly. Be honest. Be generous. Be kind. This is an opportunity for both you and them. It will improve who you are, and your children will have access to an amazing role model.
- It means admitting when you are wrong and being willing to fix it and grow from the experience. People have such a hard time owning up when they are wrong, especially adults. If you double down when you make a mistake, your kids will learn to do the same thing. Showing your children that there is no shame in admitting when they make a mistake and that the goal is to learn from it — not to protect their egos from being wrong — it will help mold some incredible little people with growth mindsets.
- It means being consistent, even when it’s inconvenient or disrupts your plans. Do what you say you are going to do, with very few exceptions. “Do that again and no sleepover” needs to mean, “Do that again and no sleepover”, even if canceling the sleepover means canceling your wine night. If your kids can’t trust you to follow through with your statements of intent, be they discipline, rewards or otherwise, they will lose faith in you. If they can’t believe that you will do what you say, they won’t find safety in you, and they will look for it elsewhere and be angry with you for not providing it.
- It means being willing to challenge them, not just shelter them. So many of us moms think that protecting our children from every negative experience or emotion is the best thing we can do for them. The reality is that this is a selfish approach. We do this because we get uncomfortable watching them get uncomfortable. It’s about our feelings, not their development. They can’t grow without challenge. Let them take the bus, even when you can pick them up. Make them take their AP exam even when they are having an anxiety attack. Be there to catch them if they fall, but they won’t learn to fly if you don’t let them try. Flying is the goal.
- It means mothering not just your child, but any child in your vicinity that may be in need of mothering. This may be more about just being a good person, but I think it falls under the mama umbrella. My home has always been a gathering place for my children’s friends. They are welcome to come and go and find love and acceptance within my four walls. There are so many little, wounded kids who do not have great parents in their lives, looking for connection and role models. In my home, they get everything my children get: hugs, food, safety, and attention. Great mamas open their hearts to all children, and the world is better for it.
- It means respecting them as humans and being there, without judgment, when they need you most. This one came from my oldest daughter just a few moments ago when I asked her what she thought made me a good mom. We have a rule in our house: If any of my kids are ever in danger or unsafe and need help, they can call me to rescue them, no judgment and no questions asked. I have two teenagers and this is really important. If they are 16 and drunk and their friend wants to drive them home, they call me. I will be there with a hug and a safe, warm car to get both of them home. I am their mom, and I will always see their emergency flares.
- It means supporting their father to ensure he has an active role in your children’s lives. This one has become clear to me since becoming a single mom two years ago, but it applies to married mamas, too. When I was married, I did everything when it came to the children. My ex was hardly ever around, in part because I had made his job obsolete and convinced myself that I did so because he didn’t want to be involved. And there was some truth to that. When we divorced, he had no idea how to be a parent and no longer had me there to pick up the slack. It was like throwing him into the Gladiator ring with no armor. Don’t buy into the bumbling dad stereotype, like I did. It’s terrible for everyone: dads, moms, and kids alike. The father of your children has a very important role to play in their emotional health and development and he very well may need your help learning that role and becoming empowered to succeed in it. Regardless of what your relationship with him is like, this is your responsibility. It’s not for him — it’s for your kids.
So excuse my language, but fuck Pinterest and IG’s representation of what makes a great mom. Do you want a pretty kitchen or do you want happy, successful, independent kids? Some would say that you can have both, and maybe you can, but I would encourage you to prioritize the latter over the former.
Pinterest is about you. Mothering is about them. It’s okay to want the admiration of your mom peers, just make sure it’s not at the expense of your kiddos and always do the things that matter first.